Candice Millard

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According to New York Times bestselling author Candice Millard, confidence comes from experience. The theme is evident in the fearless subjects of her two nonfiction books: 2005’s The River of Doubt, the account of Theodore Roosevelt’s thrilling journey into the Amazon, and the recently published Destiny of the Republic, which details the short presidency of James A. Garfield— according to Millard one of the most courageous and brilliant presidents ever elected.

It’s apparent, too, in Millard’s personal narrative. Even the idea of writing a book was daunting when she began The River of Doubt. A consummate outliner, she resisted veering off path. With Destiny of the Republic, she trusted herself more. “I knew I could make the story work if I just kept chipping away at it,” she says. “There was much less angst.”

She has also learned how to better structure her process. Her children’s schedule absolutely defines the workday, which lasts from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., drop-off to pick-up. Since she believes that “nothing can compete with the joy of discovery,” she allows herself a year to do research, and another year to organize the material. Then, the writing begins.

In Destiny of the Republic, Millard dramatizes Garfield’s unlikely ascension, attempted assassination and ultimate death in meticulous detail. In the months surrounding the publishing of her first book, she and her family endured a painful journey of their own: Millard’s second daughter was born with stage four neuroblastoma the day before final proofs for The River of Doubt were due. The newborn underwent surgery, which successfully removed the tumor.

Millard shared the experience in the recent documentary Fight, which tells the stories of 11 everyday people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Initially, the filmmaker intended Millard to contribute her Roosevelt expertise to the project. “But when he learned that I had my own little prizefighter at home, he asked me to talk about her as well,” she says. “Obviously, it’s a difficult subject for me and always will be, but no story is closer to my heart.”

Still, don’t expect her to make the leap from nonfiction to memoir any time soon. “I’ve always been much more interested in other people than I am in myself,” the author says. “But my sisters tell me that when they read something I’ve written, they can hear my voice in it, and I love that. It feels like I’m telling them a story that has captured my imagination and, very often, my heart.”

Comments

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